# The Sum of All Fears: The Effects of Math Anxiety on Math Achievement in Fifth Grade Students and the Implications for School Counselors

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The Sum of All Fears: The Effects of Math Anxiety assessed reached only partial mastery of math knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at the 4th grade level. In addition to the national implications from on Math Achievement in Fifth Grade Students and the results, there are also local implications as a comparison was made amongst the Implications for School Counselors the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The results indicated that 4th grade students from 33 other states scored higher in math literacy than 4th grade students Sarah E. Ruff and Dr. Susan R. Boes, The University of West Georgia in Georgia, students from 15 states scored lower and two states, Arkansas and New York, scored the same as Georgia students (NCES, 2012). Despite the continued education reform and political efforts over the past decades, the math achievement Abstract gap has not closed. Numerous research studies have been conducted to pin-point the reasons for Low math achievement is a recurring weakness in many students. Math the gaps in mathematic achievement for American students. The causes are wide anxiety is a persistent and significant theme to math avoidance and low ranging. It is difficult to single out a particular cause for low achievement for achievement. Causes for math anxiety include social, cognitive, and American students, but a persistent theme is math anxiety. The negative effects of academic factors. Interventions to reduce math anxiety are limited as math anxiety on achievement are extensive. Geist (2010) suggests that for many they exclude the expert skills of professional school counselors to help children math achievement is not related to potential level but rather to their fear of and/or negative attitudes toward math. overcome this nervousness. The effectiveness of a school counseling small group intervention to reduce math anxiety and increase Math anxiety is more than a barrier to math achievement as it has a widespread impact on other aspects of students’ lives. Seen as early as kindergarten, math achievement in fifth grade participants is presented. anxiety can impede initial learning which results in poor math skills and negatively affect long-term academic success and career choices (Ashcraft, 2002; & Wu, Barth, Amin, Malcame, & Menon, 2012). Highly math anxious students tend to avoid math Since President John F. Kennedy challenged congress in May of 1961 to be the in general; anxiety prevents completion of small tasks as homework or paying a first country to put a man on the moon, the United States has worked to reform restaurant bill and large ones like excluding math and science related career path education and increase achievement to keep up with the achievement displayed options (Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010). by students in other countries. Even after winning the race to the moon in 1969, the United States continues to struggle to match its international counterparts Math anxiety is more than nervousness before a math test; it has pervasive negative in mathematic achievement. In 2009, The Program for International Student impacts on math learning, everyday life, and career choices. This Action Research Assessment (PISA) performed a cross-country comparison on the performance of 15 Study (ARS) reviewed the literature related to math anxiety in children. Current year-old students in reading, mathematics and science. American students scored interventions to reduce math anxiety are presented. Additionally, gaps in the below the international average in mathematic literacy. Among 33 industrialized literature and action research related to school counseling interventions for math countries, 17 countries had higher average scores than U.S. students, five countries anxiety for elementary students also are addressed. had lower average scores, and 11 countries had scores that were not statistically Literature Review different from American students (National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), Since long-term negative impacts of math anxiety begins as early as kindergarten 2011). (Ashcraft, 2001) this literature review focuses on early onset in children and In 2012, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), group provided proposes interventions to reverse harmful effects. Children are defined as a snapshot of the condition of education in the United States based on results from elementary school-age students. To identify relevant scholarly peer-reviewed its 2011 national study. Students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grade were assessed in reading, literature, the parameters were set to research definitions, causes, and interventions mathematics, and social studies. Eighty two percent of the elementary students for math anxiety related to elementary students. NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

Definitions of Math Anxiety encompass the traditional math curriculum used in classrooms, ineffective teaching For decades, the subject of math has been plagued styles, and the influence of math anxious teachers. Richardson with fear and anxiety by some students. As early Social factors. Gillen-O’Neel, Ruble, & Fuligini, (2011) found students aware of as the 1950’s, educators and researchers began negative subgroup stigmas are more likely to exhibit anxiety, poor self-esteem, and Suinn to recognize the significance and prevalence of and lack motivation. Several studies attribute elevated math anxiety and low math students with fears and negative attitudes toward achievement in females to the enduring stereotype, that “Girls are not good at (1972) defined math. Studies emerged trying to identify and define math” (Beilock et al., 2010; Geist, 2010, Sparks, 2011; Tobias, 1978 ). Sparks (2011) this phenomenon. After observing students struggle reviewed studies confirming that regardless of math ability, girls are more likely to math anxiety with math, Gough (1954) described her students’ have higher math anxiety and lower math achievement than boys. fear and avoidance of math as a disease and called as stress for interventions to help these students. Dreger The perpetuation of stereotypes also increases math anxiety and poor self-esteem in other minorities. Renya (2000) revealed that ethnic minorities are more apt to lose and Aiken (1957) described “number anxiety” causing as negative emotional responses to mathematics. motivation and interest in math when stereotyped as low achievers. Due to self- doubt and anxiety, African Americans who are doing poorly in math, consistent with Richardson and Suinn (1972) defined math anxiety negative as stress causing negative physical reactions that the stereotype, are more likely to disengage in tests and activities than are white students. Gillen-O’Neel et al., (2011) explained elementary-aged ethnic students are interfere with the manipulation of numbers and physical problem solving in both academic settings and aware of negative stigmas and this is linked with higher levels of academic anxiety and less motivation in comparison to their non-minority peers. everyday life. Additional studies from the 1970’s to reactions present day used these definitions or similar ones Beyond gender and racial stereotypes, parental expectations and beliefs related to for math anxiety. All definitions include an extreme education can negatively affect self-esteem and students’ attitudes towards math. that interfere negative physical, emotional, and cognitive reaction Scarpello (2007) discusses math anxious students from low SES backgrounds often to math that hinders a person’s ability to learn and have less educated parents who also struggle with math anxiety. Often negative with the perform math activities (Ashcraft, 2002; Beilock, et parental attitudes and beliefs are passed on and academic achievement is not al., 2009; Henry & Chiu, 1990; Mattarella-Micke, encouraged. Rown-Kenyon, Swan, & Creager, (2012) explained that parental support manipulation Mateo, Kozak, Foster, & Beilock, 2011; Tobias, is crucial to the self-efficacy in math and science demonstrated by students. Students 1978). For this ARS, math anxiety is defined as an of low SES status may lack this support due to their parents not being physically of numbers intense fear, nervousness, and dread related to math leading to avoidance of mathematic activities and and problem impedes math learning (Ashcraft, 2002). Causes for Math Anxiety The literature discussing causes and/or contributing factors for the solving in both Causes for Math Anxiety prevalence of math anxiety in elementary students involves various The literature discussing causes and/or contributing social, cognitive, and academic elements. Social factors include academic factors for the prevalence of math anxiety in continued race and gender stigmas and lack of parental support in low elementary students involves various social, settings and cognitive, and academic elements. Social factors socioeconomic (SES) households. Cognitive factors comprise dyscalculia include continued race and gender stigmas and and deficits in working memory. Academic factors encompass the everyday life. lack of parental support in low socioeconomic (SES) traditional math curriculum used in classrooms, ineffective teaching households. Cognitive factors comprise dyscalculia styles, and the influence of math anxious teachers. and deficits in working memory. Academic factors NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

present or lacking the educational that the cognitive element of working (Perry 2004). Swars, Daane, and Geisen, (2010) background to help the students with memory is a strong predictor of skill agreed that math classes using traditional curriculum homework. Social expectations, negative acquisition. Students with higher which concentrates on basic skills, teacher lecture, stereotypes, and lack of support in levels of working memory may be seatwork, and whole class instruction are more The students academic and family settings increase more susceptible to stress and anxiety likely to have students with math anxiety than math the chances of math anxiety in students. which negatively impacts their math classes that utilize non-traditional curriculum which lack the ability Cognitive factors. Biological make- learning and performance. Willis (2010) focuses on real-life applications and group work. up in regards to cognition can explained that the emotional reactions In addition to research that traditional curriculum to understand increase susceptibility to math anxiety. of math anxiety can shut down working increases math anxiety, extensive literature is Sparks (2011) interviewed several memory that is needed to learn and dedicated to how teachers’ relationships, attitudes, the “why” of neurologists studying math learning solve problems. She states “when and efficacy influence math anxiety. Current and performance. A wide range of students are stressed, they can’t use research indicates that teachers who struggle mathematics math learning disabilities, also known their thinking brains” (p. 10). Cognitive personally with fear and anxiety related to math as dyscalculia, was linked to math factors are considerable components inadvertently pass on math anxiety to their students and instead anxiety. Neurologists found difficulties contributing to the level of math anxiety (Beilock et al., 2010; Bekdemir, 2010; Geist, 2010; recognizing the differences in numerical demonstrated in elementary students. Renya, 2000 & Swars et al., 2010). Bekdemir regurgitate magnitude also exhibited high levels of Academic factors. Academic factors (2010) explained that a majority of math anxious math anxiety. Numerical magnitude, also carry a heavy influence on math individuals report fear onset and hatred of math to facts. As identifying which of two numbers is anxiety. Geist (2010) believes math a negative experience with a hostile or inadequate bigger, is a foundational concept for curriculum used in public school teacher during elementary school. Beilock et al. a result, advanced math learning. Elementary classrooms contributes to math (2010) reported that 1 year with a math anxious students with this deficiency could difficulties. Reliance on timed tests and elementary teacher was correlated with lower students develop poor self-esteem, frustration, memorization has increased anxiety math achievement and increased negative attitudes and negative reactions to math as making math a high-risk activity. Many toward math in students. Math anxious teachers quickly forget they are introduced to more complex college students who exhibit math perpetuate math anxiety as they lack confidence in concepts. anxiety presented negative experiences their ability to teach math. These frustrated teachers the concepts they had in elementary math classes. spend more time avoiding math and relying on Students with average to high math Current math curriculum in elementary answer keys in textbooks than learning how to they have capabilities also may have cognitive grade levels does not provide conceptual teach math creatively. Geist (2010) suggested that factors that could attribute to math understanding of mathematics; instead math anxiety appears from the way it is taught in learned and anxiety. Mattarella-Micke et al. (2011) it focuses on acquisition of superficial math class and may have been presented to math discussed that high math anxious knowledge of basic computational skills teachers when they were children. experience students tend to have lower cognitive and math operations. The students lack skills than their less math anxious peers the ability to understand the “why” of Interventions for Math Anxiety continuous due to avoidance of math activities and Despite the various proposed causes, math anxiety mathematics and instead regurgitate practice yet may have high inherent facts. As a result, students quickly results in one significant negative consequence, low frustration. capabilities. Ramirez, Gunderson, math achievement. As researchers recognized and Levine, & Beilock (in press) found forget the concepts they have learned and experience continuous frustration investigated the causes for math anxiety and its link NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

to low math achievement they designed and implemented interventions to reduce students cope with math anxiety yet a including social, cognitive and academic math anxiety in elementary students. Some researchers explored the social factors further search of the literature related to factors. Based on these causes, some and developed interventions to raise awareness of gender and racial stereotypes school counseling and anxiety varied early interventions were developed for school staff. Parent education and workshops were suggested to increase in suggestions to assist kindergarten to reduce math anxiety in elementary student support of academic endeavors at school and home (Geist, 2010; Gillen to college students. Many of the students. These include, parent and -O’Neel et al., 2011; Renya, 2000; Tobias, 1978). Other researchers focused on the interventions varied from moderate teacher trainings negative social stigmas, cognitive factors of math anxiety and discussed changes in assessment techniques to school phobia and generalized anxiety early assessment and specialized identify early math learning disabilities and specialized instruction (Ashcraft, 2002; disorder to test anxiety and transitional education for students with math Mattarella-Micke et al., 2011; Mundia, 2012; Ramirez et al., in press) Changes in stress (Bruce, Getch, & Ziomek-Daigle, learning disabilities, new and creative curriculum such as group work, open discussion, real-life applications, and group 2009; Cheek, Bradley, Reynolds, & math curriculum, building teacher or peer assessments were offered as interventions to replace anxiety provoking Coy, 2012; Miller, Short, Garland, & confidence in math, and increasing traditional math curriculum (Geist, 2010; Sparks, 2011; Willis, 2010;). Additional Clark, 2010). When keywords limited positive learning environments. researchers focused on encouraging teachers to explore their own math anxiety and the search to school counseling and Research supports that interventions take steps to create stress free and positive classroom environments (Beilock et al., math anxiety fewer documents were have positive results when implemented 2010; Bekdemir, 2010; Swars et al., 2010). suggested. Two promising studies effectively. Weaknesses for interventions Gaps in the Literature incorporated cognitive-behavioral include amending district policies and therapy techniques such as cognitive procedures and relying heavily on The interventions discussed are valuable if implemented effectively, but they rely reframing to replace negative and curriculum and classroom instruction heavily on systemic and social change that is not easily attained. Moreover, the fearful thoughts related to mathematics changes which could add extra exertion majority of these interventions focus on instructional or classroom changes which with positive visualizations of success to already overwhelmed classroom require instituting more work, planning, and training to already overwhelmed and achievement, however these teachers. Fantuzzo et al. (2012) revealed classroom teachers. Additionally, the interventions seem to neglect the psychological focused on high school and college- that high levels of teachers’ job stress and emotional aspects of math anxiety. Schools employ professional school aged students (Perry, 2004; Shobe, were related to increased responsibilities counselors (PSCs) who are uniquely trained to assist students with a wide range Brewin, & Carmack, 2005). The majority and instructional changes that decreased of academic and personal/social stressors and could be effectively used to help of counseling research for math anxiety their time dedicated to teaching math was conducted in colleges and high and reading basics. Moreover, these schools and little in elementary schools. studies are limited as they ignore the Academic success in the area of math expert qualities and skills of PSCs as achievement proves to be a recurring possible resources to reduce math weakness in American students. This anxiety in elementary students. The gap has been documented as early as deficit in this literature warranted this kindergarten. A persistent and significant ARS that designs, implements, and theme related to low math achievement evaluates the effectiveness of PSC’s is math anxiety. The research suggests to reduce math anxiety in fifth grade several causes for math anxiety students. NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

Method (MCOMP) and the Math Concepts and Applications measure (MCAP) benchmarks This action research (AR) was defined as a study conducted by a PSC within the used by the district are standardized and nationally normed. These data served school environment to gather information about a counseling intervention and how as a baseline measure and the criteria to identify students to participate in the the participants responded to the intervention. The AR goal was to gain insight by intervention. Baseline scores and spring scores on the MCAP and MCOMP were evaluating the intervention effectiveness and developing new practices to improve compared to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. student outcomes and the lives of those involved (Mills, 2011). This ARS addressed Post-intervention teacher interviews were conducted for triangulation data. A how PSC skills in personal/social development make them uniquely qualified to 16 item questionnaire composed of rating scales and open-ended questions assist students in overcoming barriers in math learning by reducing math anxiety was developed and used during structured interviews with teachers about their (Barna & Brott, 2011). A mixed method design was used to identify the nature and observations and perceptions of the impact the small group intervention had on degree of problems in math achievement for fifth grade students, in a Georgia public participants. The teacher questionnaire was developed from the literature and not suburban elementary school, by exploring their attitudes and beliefs about math. tested for validity or reliability. There were three research questions (RQs) Identification and Recruitment of Participants 1) How does math anxiety negatively impact math achievement in fifth grade Student participants. Fourteen students were identified as possible participants students? in the intentional small group intervention to reduce math anxiety and increase 2) How can PSCs reduce math anxiety and reverse the negative effects on math achievement. They did not meet the winter target on one or both math sections achievement? of the benchmark assessment and showed significant scores on the MASC. Parent consent and student assent were acquired from 13 students (N= 13): 6 females (3 3) How can the results from the intervention be used to make improvements in African-American, 2 Caucasian, and 1 Hispanic) and 7 males (6 African-American, future counseling programs to address math achievement? and 1 Hispanic). These demographics were consistent with the literature. Instrumentation Teacher participants. Fifth grade teachers were asked to participate in interviews RQ 1 was confirmed from previous research collecting data about the negative about group effectiveness. The volunteers taught math to one or more participants attitudes and beliefs young students have towards math. The Math Anxiety Scale for daily. Children (MASC) (Henry & Chiu, 1990) was administered to all fifth grade students Materials and Procedures (N=63). This survey contains 22 items related to math that students rated on a 4 point Likert scale. The MASC demonstrated validity and reliability through a factor RQ 2 was addressed by designing and implementing a small group intervention analysis compared to other assessments used to measure math anxiety (Henry & with fifth grade participants in a lunch and learn format. The group met twice a Chiu, 1990; Beasley, Long & Natali, 2001). In addition to the MASC, students were week for 6 weeks for 12 sessions facilitated by the PSC. The curriculum was based asked 5 open ended questions (ARS Survey) probing feelings and perceptions about on Building Math Confidence by Brigman and Goodman (2008) and Managing math. Besides the ARS Survey, the PSC developed a Post-Test consisting of 5 open- the Mean Math Blues: Math Study Skills for Student Success by Ooten and Moore ended questions to probe the small group intervention’s impact on participants’ (2010). Session topics included identifying and expressing feelings, positive attitudes and beliefs about math and improvement in coping skills. The ARS Survey and negative self-talk, changing negative thought patterns, stress reduction and and the Post-Test items were designed for this ARS and were not tested for validity relaxation exercises, self-advocacy-knowing when and how to ask for help, goal or reliability. setting, accepting mistakes as a part of learning, celebrating success, specific math study skills, journaling, self -evaluation, and termination. At the final session, a MASC scores and ARS survey results were compared to the student’s scores on second MASC, ARS Survey, and Post-Test items were administered to assess any the winter math benchmark exams. The AIMSweb Math Computation Measure impact on beliefs and attitudes toward math. Participants participated in the spring NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

administration of the AIMSweb MCOMP and and participant’s pre and post attitudes and beliefs toward math. Qualitative data MCAP. was translated into numeric form to represent the percentage of positive and Data gathered during the post-intervention teacher negative themes found in teacher and student responses. interviews summarized teacher observations related Results to the participants’ use of skills and strategies Quantitative Student Data gained from the group. Additionally, teachers related changes they noticed in attitude and To measure the impact of the intervention on participants’ stress and anxiety levels motivation in math class, and behavior changes in math, both MASC scores were compared for each participant (Figure 1). The they observed related to the subject of math. Post data Data Analysis demonstrated Qualitative and quantitative data was gathered and analyzed by using a mixed methods design of most grounded theory and descriptive statistics. Data analysis was meant to confirm the literature’s participants description of the negative effects of math anxiety on math achievement in elementary students. Other experienced data was analyzed to measure the effectiveness of the small group intervention to reduce math anxiety lower levels of and increase math achievement. Quantitative data. Both MASC scores were Figure 1: Comparison of Student Participants First and Second MASC Scores math anxiety analyzed using descriptive statistics to compare percentage changes in participants’ scores after and increased the intervention. Descriptive statistics compared results demonstrated 46% of participants (N=6) had a decrease, 31% (N=4) had an increase, and 23% (N=3) of the MASC scores remained the same. percentage of change on spring and winter math benchmark scores. Post data demonstrated most To examine the impact of the intervention on math achievement, the winter and participants experienced lower levels of math spring fifth grade math benchmark scores were compared. Analysis of basic math achievement. anxiety and increased math achievement. computation skills displayed that 84% of participants (N=10) increased their second Qualitative data. All qualitative data were analyzed MCOMP score, 8% (N= 1) decreased the score, and 8% (N=1) had the same score. using grounded theory. The goals of grounded The MCAP measures students’ skills in math concepts and applications. Results theory are to code qualitative responses and revealed 58% of participants (N=7) had an increase, 33% (N=4) had a decrease, classify into emerging themes (Walker & Myrick, and 8% of the participants (N= 1) had the same MCAP score. One participant was 2006). Attention was paid to themes that correlated absent and did not participate in the second benchmark administration. with the literature connecting math anxiety and low math achievement. For triangulation, teacher interviews were coded and compared for similar themes relating to the impact of the intervention NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

Qualitative Student Data After identifying the themes, theme frequency before and after small group Using grounded theory five themes emerged from the ARS survey responses to intervention was charted and translated into numerical percentages. Student include stress and frustration, negative self-talk and avoidance behaviors, positive responses before the small group intervention determined 52% displayed stress and attitudes toward math, and positive self-talk and motivated behaviors (See Figure A). frustration with math, 18% displayed negative self-talk and avoidance behavior, 14% displayed positive attitudes toward math, and 16% displayed positive self-talk and Figure A: Qualitative Matrix of Student Responses to ARS Survey motivated behaviors. The frequency changed after the small the group intervention as only 30% of the respondents reported stress and frustration, 5% displayed Pre-Intervention Examples Post-Intervention Examples Themes Themes negative self-talk and avoidance behavior, 30% revealed positive attitudes toward math, and 35% displayed positive self-talk and motivated behaviors. Stress & Frustration “It’s really scary when Stress & Frustration “I get a little nervous” 52% you get called to the 30% “Math is boring Another post-test item asked students to respond to the following: Imagine you are board.” “Freak Math!” “I don’t like math and I “Difficult” in math class and you are about to take a test. How do you feel? The majority of am afraid of math.” “Math is a little hard.” participants still found this to be an anxiety provoking situation as 92% displayed “I get scared when I stress and frustration and only 8% displayed positive feelings and attitudes (See don’t get the problem.” “I get really scared and Figure B). start sweating.” “I feel stupid and Figure B: Qualitative Matrix of Student Responses to Post-Test Questions 1-2 can’t do it” “Really confusing and Imagine you are in Examples Imagine you are in Examples frustrating” math class and you math class and you are about to take a are about to take a Negative Self-talk & “Math is hard for me.” Negative Self-talk & “Math is hard for Avoidance Behaviors “I give up instantly.” Avoidance Behaviors me.” test? How do you test? What do you 18% “I just sit there and 5% “I give up instantly.” Feel? do? scratch my head.” “I just sit there and Stress & Frustration “Nervous” Positive Self-Talk “Have confidence and “I mess with my hair.” scratch my head.” 92% “Mad” & Motivated say I can do it” “I say I can’t do it. “I mess with my hair.” “I feel like I might pass Behaviors “Say I can do this” “I am dumb and don’t “I say I can’t do it. or fail” 85% “Count to Ten” know anything.” “I am dumb and don’t “Like butterflies are in “Practice” “I feel stupid and help- know anything.” my stomach” “I keep on trying” less” “Scared” “Relax” Positive Attitudes “Sometimes math is Positive Attitudes “Math is an education “Mad and anxious” “Ask for help when it’s Toward Math hard but sometimes it Toward Math that helps your brain “Sometimes stress” time to check” 14% is not.” 30% to think everyday” “Worried” “Meditate” “Math is great.” “Math is about “I breathe in and out and “Math is good for you.” dealing with real life count to 10” “Ok” problems.” Positive Feelings “Ok” Negative Self-Talk “Hold my tummy” “Kind of cool” & Attitude & Avoidance “Tense up and get “Better now” 8% Behaviors nervous” Positive Self-talk & “I would ask the Positive Self-talk & “I can do it” 15% Motivated Behaviors teacher Motivated Behaviors “I can do this.” 16% to help me.” 35% “I’ll try this again.” The same situation was described and participants were asked what do you do? “I would solve the “Keep trying ask A majority responded positively to the situation as 85% displayed positive self- problem.” questions” talk and motivated behaviors and 15% displayed negative self-talk and avoidance “Ask teacher for help” “I just count to ten.” “Ask for some help.” “I try my best.” behaviors (See Figure B). The participants were asked to describe their feelings about NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

math before joining the small group and 92% of the responses displayed stress and mistakes. Thirty eight percent observed increased participation and completed frustration with math and 8% displayed positive feelings and attitudes toward math. assignments, 38% responded participants display confidence and positive attitudes, When asked to describe feelings about math after participation 100% displayed and 24% responded participants were less fearful and accepted mistakes. positive feelings and attitudes toward math (See Figure C). Figure D: Qualitative Matrix of Teacher Responses to Structured Interview Figure C: Qualitative Matrix of Student Responses to Post-Test Questions 4-5 Question 15 Describe how you Examples Describe how you Examples Describe how the small Examples felt about math feel about math math confidence building before joining after participating group contributed to math math group? in math group? achievement Stress & Frustration “I had always hated it” Positive Feelings “I feel like I have pro- Increased participation and “I had always hated it” 92% “It sucked I failed & Attitude gressed” completed assignments 38% “It sucked I failed everything” everything” 100% “I get 2s and 3s” “I hated math before joining” “I hated math before “I feel good and confi- “Like I am stupid” joining” dent” “Hated it” “Like I am stupid” “A little better” “Scared” “Hated it” “Easy” “Stress” “Scared” “Good” “I hated math and wished it never existed.” “Stress” “Pretty Good” “Dumb” “I hated math and “I feel very happy and “Nervous” wished calm” “Very Very Stressed” it never existed.” “Smart” Displays confidence and “She gives when called upon in class, she’s more confident in “Dumb” “Awesome” positive attitude 38% herself.” “Nervous” “Like I can do it” “She believes that she will pass math on the CRCT and I believe “Very Very Stressed” “I love it” she has a chance to.” Positive Feelings “I loved it” “Strong use of positive self-talk” & Attitude 8% Less fearful and accepts “Calm demeanor which leads to methodic step by step mistakes 24% approach to math” Qualitative Teacher Data “He seems more willing to share his answers or Teachers rated each student’s stress level in math class using a scale of 0-10 explanation even though he wasn’t sure he was right” “He seems more assertive, He’s not scared to be before and after the small group intervention. Responses revealed a decrease in wrong because he knows he’s going to get help” participants’ stress level in math class as the mean stress level before joining the math group was 5.6 and the level after participation was 3.0. Teachers’ responses Discussion also displayed an increase in participation in math class after the intervention as Comparison of baseline and post-intervention data answered RQ1. All fifth grade the mean involvement before joining the small group was 5.6 and the current mean participants had high MASC and low math achievement scores on one or both after participation was 7.8. When asked if the small group contributed to increased winter math benchmarks. A lower second MASC score correlates to a decrease math achievement, 75% stated “Yes”, 17% were “Not Sure”, and 8% said “No”. in math anxiety, a higher second MASC score correlates with an increase in math The teachers were asked to describe how the small group was effective in increasing anxiety, and the same score on the MASC correlates with the same level of math math achievement. Common themes were coded and frequencies were translated anxiety exhibited by participants after the small group intervention. To measure the into numerical percentages (See Figure D). Three themes emerged from teacher effects of math anxiety on math achievement the data from the second MASC and observation of participants in class, increased participation and assignment spring benchmark assessments were analyzed. Of the 46% (N=6) of participants completion, displays confidence and positive attitude, and less fearful and accepting who displayed a decrease in math anxiety on the second MASC, 83% (N=5) scored NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

higher on the spring benchmark MCOMP and 67% (N=4) showed improvement Limitations in their MCAP scores indicating an increase in math achievement. Of the 31% Triangulation of data indicates the small group Triangulation of (N=4) who showed an increase in math anxiety on the second MASC, 75% (N=3) intervention was moderately effective; however, scored higher on the MCOMP and 25% (N=1) showed improvement in the MCAP. other variables may have been involved. It is possible data indicates These findings are consistent with the literature correlating math anxiety and math achievement as more achievement growth was demonstrated in participants who that teacher instruction and classroom interventions the small group increased math skills and abilities which led to displayed less math anxiety (Ashcraft, 2002; Beilock, et al., 2009; Henry & Chiu, increased confidence and a reduction in math intervention 1990; Mattarella-Mick et al., 2011; Tobias, 1978; Wu et al., 2012). anxiety. RQ2 was answered by evaluating effectiveness of the small group intervention was moderately This ARS was limited in controlling possible to reduce math anxiety. The counseling intervention was moderately effective stressful situations that may have contributed to effective; in reducing math anxiety and its effects on math achievement as nearly half of an increase in math anxiety and decrease in math the participants scored lower on the second MASC and the majority of these achievement. These include teacher/student conflicts, however, other participants had higher spring math benchmark scores. Moreover, a majority of the teachers reported improvements in confidence and participation in math class and peer conflicts, teaching styles and traditional math variables may instruction, and pressure to perform well on high 75% stated the small group intervention contributed to math achievement. These stakes assessments. Teachers noted peer conflicts have been results indicate the PSC is uniquely qualified to build confidence and increase math as a possible source of inconsistency in students’ achievement in fifth grade students through a small counseling group intervention. motivation and performance. Participants also involved. It Considerations reported negative peer interactions, teaching styles is possible It is possible that some participants who increased MASC scores underrated and teacher conflicts as continuous sources of stress their anxiety on the first MASC or over reported it on the second MASC. This is in math class. Students expressed anxious feelings that teacher about the upcoming CRCT administration as fifth suggested as post-test qualitative data showed 92% reported feeling stress and graders are required to meet expectations on the instruction frustration in math before the intervention and 100% reported positive attitudes and feelings toward math after the small group intervention. Other factors could math and reading portions to advance to sixth grade. Although, positive coping skills were taught and and classroom have contributed to the higher second MASC scores. In the structured interviews, teachers commented that some participants showed inconsistency in math class that practiced in the small group intervention, the PSC interventions they attributed to variables such as bullying situations, frequent school absences or could not control participant’s continued exposure to difficult transition to a new school. Another factor may have been an increase in these factors. increased stress among students as the administration of the Criterion Referenced Competency This ARS was limited to a relatively small group of math skills and Test (CRCT) was near. participants. Gladding (2012) suggests that psycho- Lastly, throughout the group intervention several participants reported stress and educational groups can be large yet are most abilities which effective with 8-12 participants. The small group frustration with math teachers and instruction. These factors are consistent with intervention was based on these parameters to led to increased causes for math anxiety found in the literature (Geist 2010; Perry, 2004; Swars et al., 2010). Continuous exposure to these stressful situations could have increased the include a maximum of 15 participants, approximately confidence and students’ level of math anxiety. one-fourth of fifth grade students. In the structured interviews, teachers discussed other students who a reduction in may have benefited and were not included in the study. math anxiety. NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

Future Implications References The results and limitations reveal areas for improvement and expansion (RQ Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development Experiments by Nature and 3). Consistent with the literature, factors such as traditional math instruction and Design. Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press. teaching styles could not be controlled and might have impacted the effectiveness Denbo, S. J. (2002). Why can’t we close the achievement gap? In S. J. Denbo & L. Moore of the intervention. Future studies should examine how PSC’s advocate for Beaulieu (Eds.), Improving schools for African American students: A reader for students and address math concerns with administration and faculty. PSC’s could educational leaders (pp. 13 – 18). teach faculty to identify students with math anxiety and incorporate interventions Ford, D. & Trotman, M. (2001). Teacher of gifted students: Suggested multicultural into classroom instruction that reduce stress and frustration for these students. characteristics and competencies. Roeper Review, 23(4), 235 – 243. Discussions with administration should center on monitoring teaching styles that increase math anxiety and encouraging positive math learning environments in the Gray, T., & Fleischman, S. (2005). Successful strategies for english language learners. classroom. Educational Leadership, 62(4),84-85. In future ARS the PSC should consider the timing of the small group interventions. Georgia Department of Education. (2012). Georgia Resource Manual for Gifted Education Changing the time of the small group was suggested by three teacher participants. Services. (Available from Georgia Department of Education, 205 Jessie Hill Jr. Drive, Before or after school scheduled group times could allow for less interruption Atlanta, GA. of classroom instruction and longer periods for group intervention. School year Hispanic Education Fact Sheet. (2008). Retrieved September 28, 2012 from schedule should also be considered as students feelings about the upcoming spring http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/pathways/immigration/fact.htm. CRCT administration may have been stressful. Lopez, F. (2010). Identity and motivation among hispanic english language learners in Lastly, the limitation of this ARS to a relatively small group of participants suggests disparate educational contexts. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 18(16) expansion to include larger student populations. One teacher commented that McBee, M. (2006). A descriptive analysis of referral sources for gifted identification screening she felt all fifth grade students could benefit from the skills and lessons addressed by race and socioeconomic status. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 17(2),103-111. in the small group intervention. This preliminary ARS was designed to measure if Moore III, J. L., Ford, D. Y., & Milner, H. (2005). Underachievement among gifted students of confidence was built by participation. Possible benefits for all fifth grade students color: Implications for educators. Theory Into Practice, 44(2), 167-177. needs to be reviewed. Future ARS could be expanded to include classroom guidance to build math confidence with all fifth graders. National Center for Education Statistics (2011). Retrieved March 9, 2013 from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/gaps/hwfaq.asp#size_rank In a final conclusion, more research addressing the psychological and social aspects of math learning and achievement are needed. PSC’s are uniquely qualified to Ratts, M., Toporek, R., Lewis, J. (2010). ACA Competencies: A social justice framework for identify and create interventions to address these aspects of math learning. As counselors. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association. school leaders, PSC’s are called to be actively involved with the mission of the Ramos, E. (2010). Let Us In: Latino underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs. school in advocating for the personal/social and academic needs of the students. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 17(4),151-153. PSC’s can do so by raising awareness of the psychological aspect of math learning Shaffer, S. Ortman, P.E., & Denbo, S. J. (2002). The effects of racism, socioeconomic class, among faculty and administration and encouraging collaboration to incorporate and gender on the academic achievement of African American students. In S. J. Denbo interventions to address this aspect in math instruction. By developing classroom & L. Moore Beaulieu (Eds.), Improving schools for African American Students: A reader guidance and other counseling interventions to effectively reduce math anxiety and for educational leaders (pp. 19 – 29). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. increase math achievement, the PSC develops a comprehensive school counseling program that aligns with the academic focus of the school’s mission. Williamson, A.M. (2012 October 12). My Students don’t speak English. Educational Horizons Magazine. v.91. U.S. Department of Education, Biennial Evaluation Report. (1993). Jacob J. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program (FY 93 – 94). NEXT Jump to Article: Table of Contents

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